Animism and Spiritual Warfare

Animism and Spiritual WarfareAnimism

Since the beginning of creation of the heavens and the earth and soon after creation of man and woman, there has been an ongoing war. A battle for a territory between good and evil where the victor does not take over a piece of land but where the victor controls the mind. Spiritual warfare is taking place in the minds of each individual on earth. The good is trying to establish truth in the mind and the evil is bent out to destroy anything that resembles truth. As John Macarthur puts it in his book “The Truth War”, it is a battle for truth, a battle for the mind, a battle against false doctrines, evil ideologies, and wrong beliefs.[1]

Our adversary is extremely knowledgeable of human thinking. He can manipulate our circumstances and our thinking by the way of events in our lives to produce a distorted view of reality and truth. He has many ways in which he can cause us to stay far away from truth and God. One way, Satan has been successful in keeping many way from the truth is by the use of animism. He has crafted a mentality in many regions of the world which perverted any view of truth. A system based on lies effecting the individual person, the social aspect, and life of the community resulting is a fear based life of bondage.

Taking a closer look at animism, we see across the world,  many religions or religious belief systems have been developed for a way for man to reach or satisfy God or a god of their design. There is a plethora of world religions that have been in existence since mankind has inhabited the earth. Religious beliefs that do not partake in the major world religions are often called folk religions, tribal and primal religions.[2] Animism The secular definition, found in the New World Encyclopedia, is a belief in numerous personalized, supernatural beings endowed with reason, intelligence and/or volition, that inhabit both objects and living beings and govern their existences.[3] There is no specific religion that is attached to animism but it is more of a belief system set in place by ancestral rituals and practices. The term “animism” was academically accepted through the work of Edward Bennet Taylor. Taylor was an anthropologist who coined this term in reference to a system that finds its beliefs in the supernatural realm and mystical ideas. Taylor felt that this idea of animism developed when the times of the barbarians were developing into a more sophisticated and modern society, as folklore religion and superstitious ideas had not been left behind.[4]

If we look at the word “animism” we see the etymology of the word stems from the Latin word anima which means breath or soul.[5] This refers to method or agency of which spirits and supernatural beings move in to inanimate objects or geographical locations where believers think they reside. They also hold a view that the soul is immortal, free to roam around their graves and the earth. Ancestors are revered by the animist and must have complete respect so not to bring any unlucky circumstances against themselves. Taylor’s theory seems to be correct in that the rituals were being carried over into each generation. As Gailyn Van Rheenen defines animism comprehensively as follows:

Animism is a belief that personal spiritual beings and impersonal spiritual forces have power over human affairs, and consequently, that human beings must discover what beings and forces are influencing them in order to determine the future action and frequently, to manipulate their power.[6]  

The animist worldview contains both what is seen in the physical world and what is not seen in the spiritual world. These two realities are not distinct since what is felt is also not seen in the physical world. There are three levels that the animist believe exists, the different planes or zones are the upper zone, middle zone and the lower zone. This is of great importance to understand for those entering the mission field to get a perspective of how some indigenous cultures interact with world religions, especially Christianity. The upper zone pertains to a High God of their culture and even the God of the bible in some regions. The middle zone is occupied by lesser deities, spirits, ancestors, and impersonal forces which have animated interaction with the other zones. The lower zone deal with humans, plants and inanimate objects who interact with the middle zone. The arena where the animistic activities function is between the lower and middle zones.

Even within the animistic worldview, they hold to the fact that there is a Supreme being in the upper zone although it may not be the God of the Bible but they know there is a High God. Just as Romans 1:20 tells us that His divine nature having been clearly seen, being understood what has been made, they are without excuse. They have an understanding that all things came into existence by a Supreme being but there are many spirits residing in the other zones. With this basic understanding of creation and a Creator, their ability to grasp the God of the universe really is not much of an obstacle opposed to one who absolutely rejects God and the creation.

The Bible has shown us how to view and interpreted animism. In the early texts of the Old Testament, Moses writes under the influence of the Holy Spirit and direct revelation from God in passages concerning how we should only worship one God and no other. We should not worship any image in the form of a male or female, any animal on the earth or likeness of any winged bird (Deut. 4:15-20). We should not serve other gods and worship them, sun or the moon or heavenly hosts (middle zone) which I have commanded you (Deut, 17:2-7). Moses made clear imperatives on what not to worship including those objects that the animist worship or bow down to out of fear. The book of Job speaks of the beasts and the birds of the heavens and the fish in the sea (Job 12:7-8). Again, Job speaks of the moon and the sun (31:26-28). There shall not be any worship of objects on earth or in the heavens but only the worship of God.

Animism has been devised as a stumbling block or a snare for the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in when in the mission field. Animism and its primitive cultural traditions, as it is passed down from generation to generation, distorts the truth of God and His creation not allowing the natural revelations that God has bestowed on mankind to be accepted as truth. If we look at the definition that Van Rheenen stated, we see completely that their belief system is that of the spiritual nature. Under the influence of this ideology, they are in bondage to a system of fear and exercising of rituals in order to stay healthy and not die. Their view, even in death and illness holds to a belief that they have wronged the spiritual world in some way leaving themselves open to whatever actions the primal spirits may execute.

Several geographical examples may shed some light to the animistic view. In the Philippines, for example, is a Catholic dominated country where 90% are following the Roman Church, there is much animistic beliefs in sync with their religion. There is a belief that there are spiritual beings that occupy trees called “duwende” which developed in Latin America as well possibly from the Spanish influence in the Philippines as well. Children are taught this at a very young age and it matures into a fear into adulthood. These spirits occupy trees for the most part and even have good counterparts depending on the color of them. They are even believed by the animists that they occupy rocks, caves dark parts of the home and even ant hills. Although not as prevalent today in suburban Philippines, the “duwende” still has a hold of many in the outer provinces and islands of the Philippines.[7]

On the island of Guam, another predominately Catholic island in the Pacific with its own Spanish influence by their rule, there is almost the same folklore as the “duwende” but this takes on a more fearful personality. The “taotaomona”, is a belief that the dead ancestral relatives of the indigenous people of Guam, the Chamorro, live in a specific tree species. This tree is the Banyan tree. Its large sprawling canopy and thick trunk lends to its ominous and creepy reputation. Their belief is that nobody is allowed to touch it, trim it or cut it. It must be respected since their ancestors are living in the tree after passing to death. If anyone disrespects the tree, then they disrespect the dead and will suffer physical ailments and even death. This belief is very strong today among those professing Catholics.

In the Micronesian Island of Marshall, the primitive view of man stems from the folklore where man is mortal and the soul of the dead journey towards the island of the dead or skyward or underground. Some believe that the Marshallese soul of the dead must swim across a channel to reach Nako island, where food is everlasting but many will not make it and sink being weighed down by their sins. In this, Marshall is still somewhat a primitive island, where these beliefs are still very active today[8]. When missionaries arrive on Marshall they are faced with this as their biggest obstacle which is creation and death. More of a mythological tale for the creation of Marshall but there is a belief that it was created. There are many syncretistic rituals that are being practiced today in the Marshall Islands. Pages of the Bible are torn and placed inside bottles and hung on trees to keep evil spirits away from their homes. This stems from an animistic view tied with some sort of weak Christianity that was taught by visiting missionaries.

How is a missionary to attempt to deal with animism in their commission to bring the Gospel to the nations of thee world? As I was taught in secular management, we must first, identify the issue. Next, we must formalize the best solution. Lastly, we must execute the solution. This holds true for ministry. We have been given God’s Word, which holds all the appropriate solutions for all issues that we will face in the mission field. We must be able to discern what is required to help these people come to the realization of their own depravity and requirement for the Lord. We must be able to articulate God’s Word according to their need. This is not an enormous feat that is impossible since many have been successful in the mission field in bringing the truth of the Gospel and changing lives and moving cultures away from the spiritual warfare that held them in bondage for generations.

Animist have some basic and relative beliefs that we share. They do believe in a Supreme being but believe that the being is too far removed from them or too abstract to be known.[9] But our adversary has developed a keen and crafty way to drive people away from the truth. By slight deception and very slight at that, away from the truth of God’s Word has enough power to pervert and distort anyone’s thought process into any falsehood or belief system. Satan is busy blinding people from the truth. Using social structures, Satan uses this as a means to persecute anyone wanting to convert to Christianity. We hear of witchcraft and other doers of spiritual evil having such powers to perform magic and cast spells, do these actually work or have any power at all? If a person is held in bondage in a false belief system keeping him away from the truth, then in a sense they are powerful. Social stigma and persecution fuels the fear amongst developing nations where a crab like mentality can cause someone in the village to do anything to keep someone down from getting away from a false system presents a true obstacle form the Gospel being effective.

A positive note to state here, since the animist have false ideologies stemming from social acceptance and daily life occurrences, they are easily receptive to the truth. Their view on sin is not concerned with offending the Supreme being but of the many spirits in the middle level. This wrong view of sin causes much of the fear that experience on a daily basis. The fear that they are consumed with, concerning witchcraft, magic and spirits, they can be disciple into the truth that love drives out fear (1 Jn. 4:18). Showing the power that Christ holds in His defeat those of power and authority (Col. 2:15). Reaching their view of harmony within humanity, Christianity shows that Christians can live in harmony together but more so with God. They can be shown that this harmony is not based on any manipulation on their part but of their submission to God’s authority and obeying the commandment to love one another. Showing or exposing that their once feared idols are powerless such as when societal changes occur such as land development will aid in the understanding of the uselessness of what they feared.[10] Like the mountain that was dissolved by development or the river that was dammed causing it to dry up in parts or the tree that was sacred being cut down and nothing happening to the individuals that cut the tree down.. They must be shown that they can be delivered from their spirits who have plagued their society into a loving and caring God.

The message has to be expounded to reach the person in order to give all their animistic beliefs for the sake of Christ. Their low religion views must be left behind in order to take on the high religion view. As for an illustration, there is a Kenyan proverb that tells of how two walking sticks cannot be burned together. This explains how the animist having the dualistic lower and higher view cannot coexist. They hold unto the higher view for questions on cosmic level ideas, origin and destiny but revert back to the lower for addressing questions dealing with illness, death and drought. Understanding of their beliefs is critical but the success is also dependent on proper contextualization.

For good contextualization, there must be a deeper knowledge of their culture and what realities exist. There must be discernment of what is acceptable not just “tossing out the baby with the bathtub so to speak.” The theological response will differ from each geographical region. It is proper to weigh everything against Scripture in their daily life also keeping an eye on the individual cultural lifestyles that each region poses.[11]  The Gospel must be delivered in a culturally relevant manner but there can be nothing to diminish the Cross in fear of offending anyone (1 Cor. 1:23). Western missionaries have mistakenly made errors in judgement in trying to Westernize the mission field. Such great missionaries as William Carey, Hudson Taylor and others had leaned towards understanding the culture and becoming “one of them” when reaching the lost. (1 Cor. 9:20). Don Richardson had issues with the natives in Papua New Guinea concerning to Gospel. The natives related with Judas Iscariot and made him their hero, Richardson then contextualized in relation to the Sawis tribe for them to fully understand Christ.[12]

In the space of contextualization, we must weigh our opinions on their views on matters such as witchcraft and spells. In our Western culture, we have dismissed these to folklore or urban legends and do not believe in the powers they may possess. But if these people actually believe in the power of these animistic gods and spirits then we must gain understanding to what they are experiencing. If they are suffering from the effects of displeasing a spirit, then we must not just dismiss it as folklore or heresy and see how we can comfort them. Initially, we must be learners of their culture and society. We then can make proper assessments and strategize on the best method of action.

The use of metaphors can be a solid means in reaching the animist. There are several metaphors in the Bible telling of the atonement. In Acts, Romans, Galatians and Hebrews each in their own way, the authors told of the atonement by either legal setting or an eschatological setting. An animist will grasp the message but the urgency of the message will not be understood.[13]It is until they see Jesus as the hero who defeats powers and principalities and overcomes all evil and puts death to death then they will fully understand. They must be touched in their hearts where their worst fears are hidden. Jesus Christ came to overcome the evil in their lives and they must walk away with that message. They must know that freedom from the evil one is available but only through Christ.

The motives for salvation of the animist must be discerned. Animist, as stated above, are not concerned with their sin offending God or their Supreme being but offending the many spirits that will, in their minds, inflict punishment by way of illness or death. They must be taught the difference between social sins and theologically defined sins. In their current system, they worry about social sins that will disrupt social harmony. These sins that offend the spirits, can easily be manipulated by doing some ritual of magic.

Most animist only seek salvation for humanistic reasons.to fill the need to receive favor from an ancestor or any other selfish need. They must hold unto the restoration of the relationship with God the Creator as the reason to seek salvation. Knowing that the animist is more concerned with the existential things in life than the ultimate reality, they are more concerned with power and the ability to make things happen or success than truth. This is the sad reality of animism. But the hope we can instill in them through the Gospel can release them from the lies that keep them bound to this false system developed by the adversary. Showing that Christ is the Victor and is King ruling today can give the animist the proper understanding that is required to turn their backs on the systems they were taught. Removal of the middle zone will allow them to see that God is directly above them and is accessible for a personal relationship.

BIBILOGRAPHY

“01_Halverson_05.Pdf.” Accessed October 5, 2017. http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/15_2_PDFs/01_Halverson_05.pdf.

“Animism – New World Encyclopedia.” Accessed October 5, 2017. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Animism.

“Animism, the Occult, and Mission – Viewcontent.Cgi.” Accessed October 9, 2017. http://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1303&context=jams.

Hiebert, Paul G., R. Daniel Shaw, and Tite Tienou. Understanding Folk Religion: A Christian Response to Popular Beliefs and Practices. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2000.

MacArthur, John. The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception. First Edition edition. Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson, 2007.

Miller, John Maurice. Philippine Folklore Stories. Abela Publishing, 2010.

Rheenen, Gailyn Van. Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts. William Carey Library, 2013.

Richardson, Don. Peace Child. Reprint edition. Bethany House Publishers, 2005.

Thigpen, Paul. Manual for Spiritual Warfare. Lea edition. TAN Books, 2014.

Tobin, Jack A. Stories from the Marshall Islands: Bwebwenato Jan Aelon Kein. Bilingual edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001.

Tylor, Edward Burnett. Primitive Culture. Nabu Press, 2010.

[1] John MacArthur, The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception, First Edition edition (Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson, 2007). P. 32

[2] http://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1303&context=jams accessed 10/08/2017

[3]  “Animism – New World Encyclopedia,” accessed October 5, 2017, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Animism.

[4] Edward Burnett Tylor, Primitive Culture (Nabu Press, 2010).

3 http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/15_2_PDFs/01_Halverson_05.pdf

[6] Gailyn Van Rheenen, Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts (William Carey Library, 2013). p. 20

[7] John Maurice Miller, Philippine Folklore Stories (Abela Publishing, 2010).

[8] Jack A. Tobin, Stories from the Marshall Islands: Bwebwenato Jan Aelon Kein, Bilingual edition (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001).

[9] http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/15_2_PDFs/01_Halverson_05.pdf

[10] Rheenen, Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts. p. 30

[11] Paul G. Hiebert, R. Daniel Shaw, and Tite Tienou, Understanding Folk Religion: A Christian Response to Popular Beliefs and Practices (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2000). Kindle location 6673

[12] Don Richardson, Peace Child, Reprint edition (Bethany House Publishers, 2005).

[13] Rheenen, Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts. P. 141

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Lethal Weapon


The book of Hebrews is a very interesting treasure chest of many of God’s truths.  A closer study of this magnificent book can yield a greater understanding of what a great God we serve through our Lord Jesus Christ.  In the third chapter we get a closer look seeing Christ in contrast to Moses.  We must always remember and never forget how the faithfulness of Moses as it is recorded by the writer of Hebrews in verse 3:2,  who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house.  Moses was faithful to God displaying his stewardship in the divine appointment that was given to him by God.  Just as Moses was to be faithful and of a good steward, we too must, who are called into ministry, also must be good stewards of His house.  1 Corinthians 4:2 says Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.  

As we move along the text we see the contrast as it shown that Moses, in verse 5,  And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, where Moses was found faithful in all His house whereas Christ, in verse 6, Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.   Christ is over the house where Moses was found faithful “in” the house.  This shows clearly how Christ is supreme over Moses who was revered in high regards.  Moses was respected and held in such a high regard but Christ has been shown to be of such a great supremacy as the Son of God and equal to the Father.  We see Christ as over His own house where we are housed by our belief and faith holding fast the truth of being in God’s care in which we have all the confidence of hope till we finally see Christ in heaven.  As it is here in this chapter, it comes to faith and it is faith in Christ and the work that was done on the Cross for the Father’s plan of redemption for all to be in God’s house.

As the chapter continues to expose the truth of faithfulness, we see the author using the Old Testament to support his point.  Cross referencing Psalm 95:7, he shows the urgency of the command that the psalmist penned, Today, if you will hear His voice, telling of the severity of not coming to the Lord in faith.  Showing the natural regression of the unbeliever, their hearts will become hardened and become rebels against Him.  As the Psalm continues it shows what the final outcome wil be.  God’s wrath will be shown to them by not allowing them in His rest.  Verse 95:11 11 So I swore in My wrath, “They shall not enter My rest.’ ” Such a sad reality that a just and holy God would have to avenge those who disbelieve.  Many today, will not preach this nor speak of this truth of God as if God was a different God in the Old Testament than the Newt Testament.  He is still the same Christ yesterday, today and tomorrow Heb. 13:8.

The word “today” is used three times in the next few verses ( 7, 13 and 15), driving home a serious point that Today is the day.  The reality of faith must be realized today so as not to have your hearts hardened.  As shown in the Israelites past, they hardened their hearts against God in disbelief and disobedience.  It is at this point we need to examine our own hearts and always be searching ourselves to be sure we are in the faith 2 Cor. 13:5.  Just making a profession one day is not good enough.  

Quickly ahead to the climax of this, we reach a famous verse about a double edge sword.  Many miss this point or make light of it. Heb. 4:11-12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  The Scripture is the inerrant, inexhaustible Word of God given to us so that we might know Him and what is expected of us.  The truths found in His Word are so severe that it cuts deep into our deepest parts exposing the truth of our pitiful selves.  It is the Word of God telling of these truths that causes all believers to some to repentance and faith.  Since surgery was not know in these times, the illustration of the sword is not of a precision cut as a medical procedure but of a lethal and deadly blow to those who are not in the faith.  TheThe demise of the unbeliever is told in God’s Word and the penalty for unbelief from our just and holy God is death.  The Word of God is powerful and in it shows truth and soothes and brings joy to those who believe but is a tool of judgment for those who harden their hearts.

Remember today.  Today is the day.  Today is the day you can escape the judgement for unbelief and restore the relationship that was tarnished by sin.  Today.

In Christ<><

1 Kings 13 “No Excuses”

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If you have ever read 1 Kings 13, you will know the story of the “man of God” and King Jeroboam.  The man of God came as a messenger of God to deliver a message to the King Jeroboam.  Verse 3 says “he gave a sign the same day, saying, “aThis is the 1sign which the LORD has spoken, ‘Behold, the altar shall be split apart and the 2ashes which are on it shall be poured out.’”  When Jeroboam stretched out his hand to the man of God it was still or frozen in place and he could not move it and the altar split as the man of God said it would..  After pleading with the man of God to ask God for restoration of his arm, it was.  Jeroboam was so pleased he invited the man of God to his house but the man of God was given a command from God in the following verses:

8 But the man of God said to the king, “If you were to give me half your house I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water in this place. 9 “For so it was commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way which you came.’” 10 So he went another way and did not return by the way which he came to Bethel.  

Given this command from God, the man of God did so and was obedient to God’s command and went on his way.  As the chapter moves ahead, we see the man of God meets with and old prophet in verse 11 who heard about the deeds that the man of God had done in Bethel.  The old prophet invites the man of God to his home and eat bread.  The man of God replies with the command that he received from God in verses 8-10.  The old prophet devised a trick or a lie to get the man of God to his house by telling him that he had a revelation from an angel in verse 18 that he was to bring back the man of God to his house.  The man of God fell for the lie and joined the old prophet in his house.

The word of the LORD came to the old prophet telling him of the demise for breaking the command God had given him.  After hearing this, the man of God had got on a donkey and departed only to find a lion waiting for him on the road and killed him.  The donkey did not run off in fear nor did the lion devour the man of God into pieces but only slayed him and all three were on the road, the dead, the lion and the donkey.

As the chapter continues, the old prophet retrieves the body and tells his sons to bury him in his grave and when the time comes for his departure to bury him in the same grave as the man of God.  After hearing this, Jeroboam, who had seen for himself the grace that God bestowed him restoring his arm from before, did not change his evil ways and continued to do what was evil in the eyes of the LORD.

 No Excuses

The point here that we see with the man of God has been seen all throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament record.  We can go as far back as the fall in the Garden where Adam and Eve were the first humans to disobey God’s commands (Gen. 3).  Following the next generation with Cain and Able (Gen. 4).  We can follow along in Genesis and see the progression of disobedience leading to the flood and Noah (Gen. 6:9-8:22).  Throughout history, man has rebelled against God and those have suffered dearly and the lost who never came to faith and repentance perished.  As for those who had faith but did not follow the commands of God and His Law were dealt with swiftly and God, being perfect, just and right, must hold to His standards which at times results in punishment of those He loves.

But in this case, the man of God was told a lie by the old prophet.  It was not his fault, he just followed the lie.  In today’s times, we are faced with so much information via all media devices and most this information is full of lies.  Even if we tune into most Christian programs on the TV, radio or internet, there is still a danger to what we find putting into our heads.

We must be very careful what we watch and listen to and who we listen to.  The local pastor, as well meaning as he is, may not be properly trained to deliver the proper rendering of God’s Word.  Even for salvation, the wrong Gospel is out there being preached all day long to people seeking Jesus.  Although most those seeking Jesus might be wanting to follow for the wrong reasons, there are those who genuinely are seeking to follow Him to establish a relationship and avoid the eternal hell that awaits the unbeliever.  That is why we need to be like the Bereans who searched Scripture to see of what they were being told was true (Acts 17:11).  Do not be lazy and just take anyone’s word for it, test them.  We must rely only on God and what His Word tells us.

Romans 1:20 tells us that man is without excuse.  God has revealed Himself in general revelation with all He has created all around us.  So, belief in God and Christ is required.  When the lost come to face judgment, and are face to face with God, there will be no excuses that God will listen to for not having faith and coming to repentance from their sins.  We cannot give excuses that we heard a false Gospel from a shady preacher or we were lied to by a heretical denomination of false religion all together.  The man of God was lied to by an old prophet and suffered greatly just by not following God’s command.

We must guard ourselves from attacks from the adversary.  Satan is working hard and as we see society in its current state, he has plenty of listeners following false teachers or not following at all.  We must be saturated in the Word of God and search for truths for ourselves working on our relationship with Christ following as He has commanded us to do.  There are no excuses as we seen in His Word.

Psalm 1:4-6

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Psalm 1:4-6
The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the
judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.

 

Introduction
As we look at the last 3 verses of Psalm 1, we must keep in mind what the first three verses have revealed to us. In the first verse, God’s Word showed us what the blessed person or a child of God is not to be doing with regards of seeking wisdom from the wicked. The regression or downward spiral begins with the advice that has been given to
the believer from an unbeliever then it begins to corrupt the believer’s thinking finally bringing him to be just as the unbeliever. We then saw how the believers has peace and joy delighting in the Word or Law of the Lord.  Finally, we saw how the believer was once a tree malnourished in a land of famine as the landscape of Israel to be transplanted in Christ who provides all the nourishment for growth and fruitfulness as he comes to faith in Him.
We now see in the final three verses, the contrast of the blessed in the life and death of the wicked. The process of what is to come for the wicked is shown to us here. See the contrast between the believer and the wicked:
The Blessed:                                                         The Wicked:
His Warning (vs. 1)                                             The Physical Destruction (vs. 4)
His Peace and Joy (vs. 2)                                   The Judicial Demise (vs. 5)
His Life (vs. 3)                                                     The Penalty of Death (vs. 6)

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Conclusion

This Psalm was put in this place as the first Psalm in order to start off the Psalter (whole book of Psalms) in a way that glorifies God.  It also serves as a general outlook for the whole Psalter and the Bible.  Contrasting or comparing the two ways of life, Psalm 1 shows us the outcome for the believer and the wicked non believing rebel.

As believers, we need to realize what an amazing gift that has been given to us through Jesus Christ.  May we never forget the price that was paid for this gift.  We must also find our delight as being Christians by staying in God’s Word daily and love His Law.   Not that we are in bondage to the Law but that we study His Word.  We find wisdom that we are seeking in God’s Word.  Scripture is the water and nutrients we need to sustain a Christian life and to bear fruit.

For those who do not believe in Christ or have not come to faith, your path has been written is detail here.  The life that the unbelievers are living now is their best life, although hollow and empty, it s all they have.  The worst is yet to come for them.

The truth spoken of here in Psalm 1 are the 2 detailed outcomes for the two lives that either believe by faith or those who refuse to believe.  These are the “Blessed and the Condemned”.

May I ask you today, which one are you?

Psalm 1:1-3

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Psalm 1:1-3

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

What does it mean to be blessed or to have a blessed life?  What is it saying when we read the Bible and see blessed is the man, blessed is he or however the term, blessed is used.  We will be looking at Psalm 1 verses 1-3, which will shed some light and answer this question.

 Introduction:

When we discuss the whole book of containing all the Psalms, we call this the psalter.  Old Testament, is comprised of 39 books which were broken into 5 sections dividing the Word of God into books pertaining to their use.  The first 5 books were what is known as the Pentateuch.  The Pentateuch contains Genesis, Exodus, Levitcus Numbers and Deuteronomy.  The focus of these books, also called the Law, was exactly that.  It was the Laws that God gave His people through the writing of Moses.  The next section was known as the 12 books of History.  Following this would be the 5 books of poetry, wisdom and praise.  The next 5 books were the Major Prophets and winding the Old Testament up with the Minor Prophets in the final 12 books.

With a short look at the history of the Old Testament, we have a picture of how these books play into the history of God and His people.  If we look at the books that make up the Psalms, or the Psalter, they are characterized as Poetic but we see all the different types of genres of literature in the Bible.  Such as Historical Narrative, Gospel, Apocalyptic, Epistle, Prophecy, Psalms and the Law.  We will see that the Psalter is divided into 5 different books.

  1. The Book of Psalms is then subdivided into five smaller books:
  2. Book I: 1-41 David’s conflict with Saul 1-41
  3. Book II: 42-72 David’s kingship 42-72
  4. Book III: 73-89 The Assyrian crisis 73-89
  5. Book IV: 90-106 Introspection about the destruction of the temple and the Exile 90-106
  6. Book V: 107-150 Praise and Reflection on the Return and the new era 107-150

 

Since we are looking at a portion of Psalm 1, we should get a general idea about the whole book and its characteristics.  We know that there are 150 books in the Psalms written by David, Moses, Solomon, the sons of Korah, sons of Asaph, Ethan and Ezrahite as well as several other authors who are unknown.

While praise and prayer characterize the Psalms as a whole, they may be categorized as: Praise Historical, Relational, Imprecatory, Penitential, and Messianic.

Psalms are written as poems, songs, expression of worship, prayer and praise.  Psalms serve as doxological writings which are to give God praise and there are praises to God in the end of each Psalm. By reading the Psalms, we begin to see the true perfections of God.

The Theological Principle of Psalms: The Lord, who sovereignly rules the universe, will establish His just rule on the earth in and through his people whereupon the righteous will prosper and the wicked will suffer.  Psalm 1 is the preview of this truth.

Vs. 1.  The Word of the Wicked

What we see here in the very first Psalm is the contrast between the righteous and the wicked.  The Psalmist writes this to show the cause and effect of following and not following God’s will.  It is interesting the note here that in the Hebrew text, the first word in this Psalm is asher which begins with “a” meaning happy and it finishes with the last word “tobed” which begins with the letter “t” meaning perish being the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet. This style of writing is called an Acrostic.  So we see the style of the writer here who writes with some organization with respect to the alphabet order also apparent in the meaning of the words which begins with a positive note of blessed to a negative note of one perishing.

Psalm 1, is the beginning of the Psalter but it was not the first Psalm written.  The first actual Psalm ever written was by Moses, Psalm 90.  Some scholars say this took place while Moses was in the wilderness during the 40 years.  It is also the only Psalm attributed to Moses.  But as it was developed, the Psalms were structured with some sort of organization by a thematic system.  The first 2 Psalms are in Book 1 and these 2 directly are in tune with the righteousness of God.  We will look at Psalm 1.  This Psalm is a Psalm of wisdom.

Let’s look at the first verse.

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,

Nor stand in the path of sinners,

Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

The first word, asher, has a meaning of happiness or blessedness.  This is used as a particle to describe the man or subject in the phrase.  This describes the man as being happy or having blessing.  We must ask ourselves, what is the author trying to communicate to us?  We must always ask ourselves, the what and the why.  So why is the man blessed?  It says that the man is blessed who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.  We will see why he is blessed as we unpack this verse.

What is the counsel of the wicked?  The word counsel carries the meaning of advice or counsel.  But we need to dig deeper here to fully understand what the intent is.  The counsel here is telling of what advice one receives such as anything that will have influence on that person.  Prov. 12:15 says that a wise man listens to counsel.  Prov. 19:20 says listen to counsel and accept discipline, That you may be wise the rest of your days.  So when we say counsel we automatically assume it means wisdom is found in counsel.  This verse says that the blessed man does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, meaning that the blessed man is to steer clear of the advice of the wicked.

The blessed man should never seek counsel from the wicked.  The wicked described here are those who do not know God and are living by their own worldly standards.  The wretched society outside of the kingdom of God cannot produce anything that is advantageous to a follower of God.  Their advice would be full of ungodly and sinful lusts which they believe brings them happiness.  The only advice or counsel that can come from the ungodly will lead to destruction.

Man, is blessed by not adhering to any advice given by the wicked.  This is a visual concept we have here is of anyone not listening or plugging their ears but more so that it is ignoring or a flat out disassociation with anyone who is not walking with the Lord.  Anyone outside of the kingdom should not have a place with us if we are seeking wisdom.

The wicked mentioned here describes the idea of something loose and unstable without restraints.  When it is said as being loose, it refers to someone with no morals or no boundaries of morality.  There is nothing that keeps them in line.  Therefore, the wicked are doing whatever they feel openly and freely.  There are no guilty feelings.  This behavior is direct rebellion against God.  No just lost souls but those who hate God and openly shake their fists at Him.

The only counsel we walk in should be found only in the Word of God or those who are walking with God.  God has given us His Word in order for us to walk uprightly and to bring Him honor and glory.  Walking or proceeding in the advice from the ungodly will only lead to misery, robbing us of any blessing or happiness we once had in close fellowship with God.

The text continues by saying that the blessed man does not stand in the path of sinners.  First we had “walk” now we have “stand”.  What does this mean?  There seems to be a progression of action here.  Walking now standing?  Stand here in the Hebrew is “amad” simply meaning stand firmly.  It is good to note here the progression as we looked at before.  The walk has turned into a stand, a firm stance.  We see that influence ungodly counsel.  We see as one walks in the poor counsel that was given and received, the behavior or natural tendency is to stand firmly in the path of sinners.  One has begun to show the traits of a sinner by taking the wicked counsel and developing patterns and habits of a sinner.

The path spoken of here is defined as the way, the road or the journey.  The wicked counsel has caused the believer to first walk then to stand in the path or way of the sinner.  The believer is on the same road as the wicked sinner.  Their conduct, behavior and habits are being modeled after the wicked.  They went from thinking like the world by taking worldly advice to the point they are now appearing like the world.

The adjective sinner describes the one who has gone against God, gone wrong, missing the goal or the target.  The target that is missed is belief in God and following His way.  Sinners are those who refuse to acknowledge God and the work of Christ that ensures all believers salvation and righteousness added to their account.  It is a conscious decision that sinners have made to act in regression and rebellion against God.

Now we see the progression has now matured into sitting in the seat of the scornful.  Walking, standing and now sitting.  The use of sitting here describes as one who sits, who dwells, to remain to stay or to tarry.  A sense of comfort has taken place in the believer’s mind.  There is a sense of contentment.

Pastoral Comment:  As we see today in many or most churches, is a complacency a status quo by so the believers.  As the world continues to spiral out of control with the loss of most all morality, believers are caving into what the world deems as the truth.  Post modernism has crept into churches and filled the minds of church goer producing a tolerant, weak, all-inclusive mentality that works in the world but does it fit with God’s Word?

The word scoffer tells of one who mocks, derides, one who scorns.  Truly, we see the one who is constantly complaining about God and His ways.  It is not only a verbal rejection but an outward display of their life filled with hate and anger.  These are those that we may encounter as believers, who ridicule our beliefs by way of comments or actions. This scoffer is the one who is drowning in their own misery but refuse to leave it by following Christ.  They love their sin so much they would rather live with so much misery and hate towards a God who loves them, then turn away from their sins and place their faith in Christ and be filled with joy and peace.

This shows us the true digression of a believer.  If we do not guard ourselves continually, we can be influenced by the world and the wickedness in it.  We must stay in the Word of God to be able to defend ourselves for the wiles of the devil (Eph. 6:11).  We have all we need in His Word to equip ourselves against the world system.  It begins with the mind.  We must protect what we put in it.  We must be reading the right things.  We must be watching the right things.  We must be in fellowship with the right people.  Believers cannot associate for any length of time with unbelievers.  We must reach out to them to fill the Great Commission but we but we need to have safe limits.  What we put in our hearts reaches our hearts.  From the heart, we then act.  If our minds are filled with wicked counsel, we will be filled in our hearts with sinful intentions which we will play out in wicked and evil actions or behavior.  Walking pertains to our minds, standing pertains to our hearts and sitting pertains to our feet or how the pattern manifests itself.

Ephesians 4:17-19 is laid out in parallel and perfect sync with Psalm 1:1.

So, what can we do to possibly avoid this scenario from happening to our own walk with God?  The only wise counsel comes from God’s Word.  We see exactly how one can protect themselves from this pathway of destruction and misery.  Now we can see why he is blessed.

 Vs. 2 The Word of God

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

In verse 2, we see that “his delight is in the law of the Lord”. The word delight also has the meaning of taking delight in, desiring, longing, taking good pleasure in.  God’s children are marked by their desire to learn more and more about God each day.  There should be a hunger being naturally developed in all believers.  This longing only takes place as they are in the Law of the Lord.  The Law of the Lord spoken of here is speaking about the torah which in Hebrew means Law.  The torah is the Word of God.  It was used for instruction and teaching of the Laws of God which are used to guide men by the authoritative principals found within God’s Word.

We know that the Bible is God’s Word.  God inspired writers by the ministry of the Holy Spirit to pen His Words to be given to man.  These words were God breathed, theopnuestos.  All Scripture is insured by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16).  It is our delight that is found when we are engaged in the law of the Lord or the Word of God.  Godliness is a standard that cannot be made by man but it must be the standard that God had revealed to us that we only find in His Word.

Establishing the hunger or delight for His Word can only be done by having the self-discipline to do so.  Having someone who can disciple you is priceless.  The church leader is responsible for the overall care for the flock and it is his duty to feed the flock with God’s Word.  Teaching God’s Word allows the sheep to grow.  Poor instruction, preaching and teaching will keep the flock immature, starving and malnourished.  Just as human life, spiritual growth requires the same necessities.

The word for meditate is hagah.  This verb has a meaning of someone groaning or moaning.  Uttering under their breath.  It is a process of the repetition of an idea over and over again almost talking out loud the point.  We must meditate just as this has been described.  In this prescription, it also gives us the time frame we should be meditating on God’s Word.  Looks to me as twice a day.  Day and night.  Is this a few minutes in the morning and at night?  I believe it is instructing us to meditate all day and all night if possible.  It takes the idea of taking every last drop of truth for each passage of God’s Word.  As a cow chewing cud.  Cows have four stomachs and when they chew whatever they are eating, they transfer the food from each stomach so to fully digest every last drop of nutrition from the cud.  If we meditated on a passage all day and night till we laid down to sleep, the idea of what God’s Word told us would take on a clearer dynamic and have a long and lasting impact on our lives.  Our delight would only grow and our devotion to Him would deepen. We need to approach the study of God’s Word in the same sense as the digestion process of a cow.  Meditate on it as Joshua said:

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.  Joshua. 1:8

 Vs. 3 The Word of Life

 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

 

He is like a tree.  The view of a Christian is given here as being like a tree.  The tree is a metaphor for the walk of a believer.  Think for a minute the characteristics of a tree.  The tree symbolizes stability.  But what is interesting here is that the writer uses the symbol of a tree.  Why?  He does so because the terrain of Israel was rugged and rocky, the tree symbolizes life and a blessing.  Jeremiah 17:5-8 gives an almost exact rendering of this picture of a tree telling of it physical strength where it draws its life giving source from the streams that flow beside it.  Trees are slow growing and in this slow growth, its structure becomes solid and the foundation is set in deep rooting.  Plants are frail and do not have deep strong roots such as a tree and grow fast and are short lived.  Illustrating the growth of Christian using the tree, we can develop a mental image of strength, vigor and growth.

Firmly planted by streams of water that produce fruit in its season.  The word planted in Hebrew is shatal and is translated as transplanted.  The proper rendering of shatal should be transplanted.  Planted does not exhibit the true nature of Christians but transplanted does.  Being transplanted gives a greater detail of something that was once in a specific place being uprooted and transferred to another more desirable place.  This is exactly what happens in salvation.  We were once occupying a dead empty non-fruitful environment but when we came to faith God, by His grace, He transplanted us to an environment, which is in Christ that is more adequate for strength, growth and fruitfulness.  In Christ, we have all we need for growth, He is our strength and the fruits we display are of Him by way of growing in submission, obedience and the knowledge of His Word.  If there is root there will be fruit.  Being firmly planted in Christ is like the tree by the streams firmly planted and growing deeper and deeper only producing rich and plentiful fruit.

We can see the fruits of the Spirit in Galatian 5:23.  It is an impossibility that the fruits of the Spirit can be replicated by our own abilities.  As Christians we should be displaying these fruits naturally.  Just as any fruit bearing plat, complete dependency on the nutrients is the only way the fruit can grow or even be produced.

Using an agriculture illustration.  Fruit bearing plants require water and nutrients to produce fruit.  In the case of a Christian, the nutrients or fertilizer and water is the Word of God.  No tree can even survive without water and nutrients.  Neither can a Christian survive without the Word of God.  If the fruit bearing tree receives ample amount of nutrients it grows and produces fruit just as the Christian.  With proper nutrients trees can fend off attacks from insects and diseases and are able to weather bad climate changes.  The well fed Christian can also do the same when they are experiencing adversities in their life.  The Word of God gives strength and ability to overcome bad circumstances just as a well fed tree.  The fruit of a well fed Christian will grow greater and will be able to be seen by those around them.  This is the character of Christ on display.  The key to the fruit is the root and the nutrients which is God’s Word.  Concerning the fruit, the tree does not bear fruit for itself.  It produces fruit for others.

John 15:1-7 describes God as the vinedresser, Jesus as the vine and believers as the branches.  This illustration tells of how God continues to prune and trim away branches so the vine is producing good fruit.  The branches that are not producing fruit are then cut off and thrown away and burned.  Obedience to Christ results in fruit bearing.  Those who do not will not produce fruit.

And its leaf does not wither.  Producing deep roots, producing fruit are signs of a healthy tree.  Saying that the leaf does not wither reaffirms the good health of a tree.  Leaves wither and fall off trees when the tree does not have adequate water and nutrients in the tree. The point being, the strength of the tree is shown here.  Trees often shed leaves from the older and weaker branches but this is done only to send the energy to the newer branches and leaves which will continue to produce fruit.

In that all he does he prospers.  Trusting in the Lord you are transplanted in Christ.  The Word is the nutrients and water that are required for growth.  All this is producing deep roots which produce good fruit.  The prosperity that is spoken of here does not intend that a Christian will always be prosperous but as the fruit is produced by season, so is the prosperity.  There are times that God will use circumstances that do not feel like prosperity and are painful.  There are seasons when we experience pain.  If we look back at the illustration Jesus gave us in John 15, we see that God does prune and trim and even cut off.  For a season, we may experience some pruning and it hurts.  But we need to keep our focus on what is happening and why it is happening.  No matter what we may be experiencing, no matter how tragic it may be, God is in control.  God is doing a work in us so that we may be able to glorify Him.  The prosperity comes not in the way of money or material things, that is not what is discussed here but the prosperity is our growth in Him.  As we grow we will experience the fruits of the Spirit.  This is joy in our lives.  Our healthy walk with Christ, our provisions being met by God, the joy that we have every day knowing one day we will be in glory worshipping Him, the opportunities we have to share the Good News to a lost soul, these are indicators of our prosperity.  It is not measured by material things.

 

 

Closing and Application:

-Psalm 1 verses 1-3 are packed with a treasury of truths in a Christian’s walk.  We see the awful effects of one who does not follow wise counsel.  There is a regression we see of falling back into the old sinful way of living and thinking leading to destruction and misery.

This is the pathway to destruction

 

 

-We see the pathway to joy and happiness.  Through careful study and mediation of God’s Word we can gain the wisdom that He has given by His Word.  We can align our prayers with His will.  We can draw a close and intimate communion with the Father.

This is the pathway to Joy and Happiness

 

 

-We see what a Christian life looks like.  The illustration of the tree shows us if we are properly feeding from God’s Word and drinking the water of the fresh streams we have been planted by, we will grow producing fruit and able to be witnesses for Christ.  Through the process of God’s pruning in our lives, we must be obedient and submissive to His work so that we can bear much fruit for others to see and enjoy, this is how Christians prosper in their lives.

This is the pathway to Life

John 1:1-18 Study Notes PDF

Click link to see PDF Bible Study Notes.

John1

John1:1-18
Title: The Nonnegotiable Truth: His Deity
Proposition: Jesus Christ the Word
Jesus Christ the Light and Life
Jesus Christ the Rejected and the Received
Jesus Christ the Glory and Grace

 

The importance of understanding proper doctrine and theology is not for the sole purpose of learning more about God but it also serves the purpose to learn more about you and what your life is to reflect and represent as a follower of Christ.  This study of the Gospel of John will open your eyes and mind to see the full meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Taking this walk through this book at a reasonable pace (verse by verse) will allow us to paint a picture in our minds of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  Please meditate on these verses as you study them and pray the verses daily and finally submit to the working of the Holy Spirit and allow him to illuminate the Word of God in a way you can understand it.

Gospel of John:  Different vantage point of the life of Christ.

Matt Mark Luke were the Synoptic Gospels.  Included accounts of healing, miracles, eschatology discourse, exorcising of demons and Narrative Parables.  John did not.

4 accounts do present Christ as the Son of Man and the Messiah (Mark 2:10; Jn. 1:51)

Son of God, God in human Flesh (Jn. 1:34; Mark 1:1)

Four refer to Christ as the Savior who came to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21; cf Jn. 3:16)

The author was the apostle John.  Never mentioning his name in his writing, John did however made mention of himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jn. 21:20).

John was the only author of the Gospels to state his purpose: “But these things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jn. 20:31).

The Gospel of John, was written to convince the readers of the true identity of Jesus Christ and present Him as God incarnate (vs. 1:1, 14; 8:23, 58; 10:30; 20:28).

John also was the author of the epistles of John and Revelation.  He was also nick named the apostle of Love since he used that word 80 times in his writings.

The New Testament allows us to see the fulfillment of what was spoken of in the Old Testament.

God’s sovereign plan of redemption which was promised in the books of the Old Testament had fulfilled these prophecies to the exact precise manner which were recorded in the New Testament.

Jesus, fully God and fully human incarnate in human flesh, was the necessary sacrifice that saves those who believe and repent.

It is in this book that John wrote, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that God lowered Himself to our level to give us the truth by which man can be saved.

 

Click here for rest of PDF: John1

 

How is Your Prayer Life

prayer

Introduction

In any human relationship, the key to its success depends highly on the communication of both parties.  Communication is ineffective if only one party is doing the communication. As Christians, we are in a divine relationship with God, our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. This is the most important relationship this side of eternity. God has lowered Himself to our level to communicate to us by giving us His Word, the Bible. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, God’s Word was “breathed” into the writers who He chose to write the Bible.  In the Bible, God has given man clarity of who He is, His love and affection for us and what we need to glorify Him in every aspect of our lives. That is His line of communication to us but how do we communicate with God making it a two-way line of communication?

It is the use prayer, that we can communicate with our eternal Father. In the Garden of Eden, Adam had direct communion with God (Gen. 3:9), but due to the fall, Adam and the rest of mankind lost this benefit to speak directly to God in reciprocating communication. There had to be a new line of communication developed, although be it

inaudible to man from God except for special revelations made to those who He chose for His purpose, to continue the two-way line of communication. In the Old Testament God chose prophets to communicate to His people (Heb. 1:1). In the New Testament, Jesus and the writers were the voice of God.  Today, God does not speak audibly to anyone but He has left His Word which is sufficient and complete that He does not need to speak to anyone outside of His Word.

We have been given a blessing we do not deserve. Even when mankind is so rebellious, wicked and vile, God still allows His children to reach out and communicate with Him. This is beyond any human comprehension that we can come to God with our prayers, supplications and thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6). We can have close and personal communion with God to give Him praises for the grace and mercy that He continues to show us daily.  Prayer is a necessity for all Christian lives for it establishes and maintains our position with God. We are always to be seeking Him as our Father.

Intimacy of Prayer

If we take a look at the Old Testament, we can see in Genesis 4:26, where the first recorded prayer was made as it states, “men called upon the Lord.” Man was did not have communion with God due to the fall, but man through prayer, was allowed to reestablish the broken line of communication with God. It is in this time of prayer that we have communion with God. There are many ways we can express our thoughts to God. It is not that our omniscient God needs to be told what is on our minds or requests have to be made because He does not know, but this is a time for us to call our to our Father as His little children. We need to find that intimacy between ourselves and God.  The privilege that He has given us just to pour out all our needs and pains upon Him is far beyond my reach to grasp. He wants us to be intimate with Him.

The forgiveness that God has given sinners through the faith in Jesus Christ allows us to have this communion with Him. As sinners, we have broken His law and He is perfect, holy and just to execute judgement upon each of us but His patience and His grace allowed us to see our depravity and need for a Savior who is Jesus Christ. By this redemption in God’s sovereign plan, we can be called children of God and have unrestricted access to Him through prayer. He is willing to forget all our sins to have communion with us (Ps. 130:3-4). We must remember what the cost was for our salvation. Remembering the cost also changes our identity (Gal. 2:20). Jesus Christ was the sacrifice that was required in order for us to have righteousness credited to our account. Christ had to assume our sin on His account so we could have His righteousness on ours (2 Cor. 5:21). Intimacy begins when we fully grasp the cost of our freedom and forgiveness. Prayers would be shallow and inept if we do not keep the cost of salvation at the forefront of our prayers. We must always look at our lives and continue to repent and confess directly to the Father our sins not in the sense that we may lose our salvation but to keep the channel of communication clear as possible.[1]  We must be constantly searching ourselves for any hidden sins. We must pray to God to expose any sins that are blocking our channel (Ps. 139:23-24).

In keeping the lines of communication as clear as possible, we must be walking upright as per God’s instruction in Scripture. Scripture is the place we can develop intimate and deep prayers with God. I am not sure who said this but I heard it on the run as I was driving one day. This preacher on the radio said; “we can be sure that God will answer our prayers as long as they are in tune with His will,” Very basic and true but there are some deeper ideas that can be unpacked here. If believers are constantly in Scripture, reading and meditating, would it not be obvious that one would gain better and deeper knowledge of God and His will? Through Scripture, we get to know Him and what His sovereign plan for our lives are. If we follow His Word, then it makes perfect sense that we will know how to pray and what to expect.  Easier said than done.

The benefits of studying God’s Word daily are beyond what can be explained. Knowing God through reading His Word, you will understand who He is and why He does what He does. Knowing God will allow you to speak properly to Him. Not knowing God will produce communication as an infant to and adult. There will not be a sense of the intimacy He wants to share with us. The maturity comes from growth in the understanding of who we are and who God is. As we grow, our prayer life develops as well. We must be striving to grow in order to please Him and just importantly to communicate with Him. How is it that other’s prayers exalt the Lord much more than our own prayers? It is because they are closer to God in a sense, they know Him better. This does not mean that God likes others prayers more but mature and intimate prayers bring us closer to God.

The integral factor for intimacy in prayer is our faith[2]. In our faith that was given to us by God’s grace, we develop the relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. This progressive relationship continues to grow as our love for Christ grows. The benefit is greater intimacy in communication and greater worship. Intimate prayer is intimate worship. In an intimate way, our approach the to the physical act of prayer should adhere to intimacy. As any important communication with a spouse or loved one, we are to approach prayer to that standard or even a greater standard. As Matthew 6:6 says “ But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret..” We need to shut out any distractions from the outside world to give the Lord our sole attention. We do not need to be seen in public as an external exhibition of our religiosity but our prayers are to be a sacred act between the Lord and ourselves.

Intimacy in prayer must be kept as the norm in our prayer life. We must continue to strive for each prayer to bring us closer to the Father in communion clear of anything that would hinder this process to mature. If we strive for this for our prayer life, we will desire to know more about God and be driven into a deeper study of His Word developing a clearer picture of our God. The more we know God the deeper our prayer life will be producing God exalting worship glorifying His name and bringing honor to His majesty.

 

Purpose of Prayer

In God’s sovereignty, many feel that since He is in control of everything why do I need to pray. God is sovereign and He is in control of everything and event in the universe but prayer is still an important aspect to being a Christian. Prayer, as stated above already, is a channel of communication and intimacy. But also, it is the path in which we can use to confess our sins seeking His forgiveness, seeking His wisdom and seeking peace and comfort. Prayer is not to be a grocery list of wants but in line with what His will is in our lives.

Prayer time is a time where we can reflect upon ourselves in introspection and ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and expose to us anything that might be taking up residence in the throne instead of God. It is in this quiet time with Him that we can be honest and open with Him to confess our trespasses against God, ask for forgiveness and repent. We have the opportunity to be pardoned for our sins but we need to be reminded daily in prayer to walk carefully and heed Christ’s admonition (Jn. 8:11).[3] As we confess in our prayers, we must understand that forgiveness is not given to us by our words but what was done on the cross with Jesus Christ and the continual grace God gives us. Old Testament laws required a sacrifice to cover sin but the sovereign plan of redemption of God was the cross which was required as the sacrifice to cover all sins (Lev. 4:1, 5;13, 6:24-30).

David had written Psalm 51 in regards to his serious sin of adultery with Bathsheba. David was distraught and was full of guilt and misery for his actions against God. As a good model for a prayer for sin, David begins asking for forgiveness of sin and with the confession of sin directly to God.  David then asks for God to do a work in him and to show mercy upon him. David finishes the prayer with words of worship, lifting God’s merciful heart. David was suffering because he knew he displeased God but he did not ask for mercy because the consequences of his sins but just because David knew he was not in good communion with God and let Him down. When we confess our sins, the misery we feel should be like David. The remorse we feel must not be from the impending consequences that we will face due to sin but it must be remorse because we failed to please God and committed sin.

There are many penitential Psalms that were expressing such pain in confession of sins (Ps. 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143). With the same honesty, we must confess our sins before the Lord, not for our salvation, if we are born again, but do agree with God that we broke His laws and know that we disobeyed Him. It is not about His judicial forgiveness but His parental forgiveness (Heb. 5:7-10). God will forgive those who confess their sins in penitent prayers, just as a loving Father does. Out of His love, He does administer punishment and discipline so you may learn and not perform that sin again. Prayers need to be honest and open before God. God in His omniscience, already knows what we did and is waiting for the mature believer to come in repentance (Acts 15:8). God is omniscient and knows everything.

If we confess our sins to God in prayer, he is righteous and faithful to forgive us (Jn. 1:9). This is not a call to continue in sin just because if we confess He will forgive but it serves as a reminder of His grace, mercy and love for His children. By this, we can continue to praise Him in prayer for these perfections drawing us closer to Him. We must continue to confess our trespasses against God to keep our hearts soft and receptive to what our conscience uses to make us uncomfortable. Confession of sin in our prayers shows our dependence on God displaying our lack of obedience to be completely sin free. God allows His children to sin to show them that they are hopeless in their own abilities to fight off sinful desires. God ultimately allows sin to bring glory to Himself by executing His plan of redemption which shows His perfection of love.[4] But it is by prayer that sin is exposed and you are cognitive of its existence in your life that which you can pray to God to assist you to deal and hopefully removing it.

Guidance and wisdom can also be sought through our prayers to God. The Bible is filled with the promises of the assurance of wisdom. In the book of Proverbs, there are 31 chapters of wisdom filled in these chapters that Solomon had penned. Throughout God’s Word, there are references to the liberality in the fashion of how God gives wisdom but what is so fascinating and a blessing is how God desires to give us wisdom beyond all we will ever need (Ecc. 2:26). We can have the assurance for obtaining wisdom by just asking. In James 1:5, says that all we must do is ask God for wisdom and He will give it to us generously. The Greek word for ask is in the imperative which is a command.[5] We are commanded to ask for wisdom. His wisdom is there waiting for us to access it by prayer. We do not need to seek anyone or anything else accept God directly when we need wisdom.

When we gain wisdom, we are glorifying Jesus. Wisdom fills the believer with knowledge of what Scripture tells allowing them to be properly sanctified living a life that brings honor to God. If by wisdom, we are being Christ like, then we need to be in deep request to God, as He is expecting, every time we pray. We have the promise from Jesus Himself when He said that if we ask anything in His name, He will do it (Jn. 14:13-14). This means that we must be praying in His way and per His will. Just because Jesus said He will do it if you ask does not mean He will answer every prayer. Many false religions get this wrong and do not translate this correctly, which in turn, leaves the follower of this false understanding wondering why their prayers are not being answered. Praying for wisdom must be in line with God’s will and we must ask in faith without any doubts hindering us (James 1:6). The wisdom you will receive comes from the wisdom that is in the Bible, its God’s means of communication to us. It is when our hearts are open and our eyes are clear when we can grasp God’s Word and discern what He is communicating to us. Many believe God still talks to people audibly. Scripture says something different. God uses Scripture alone to talk to us. We must be diligently studying His Word so the Word can be illuminated by the Holy Spirit to us.

Prayer allows us to seek answers found in Scripture. Once it has been established in the believer that God’s Word contains all we need to know about God, to find answers we need to be in His Word. The benefits of prayers and the answers we seek can be found in Scripture. By the reading, the studying and praying over Scripture, we can have assurance that we will know God’s will and answers to our petitions. Be it wisdom we seek, forgiveness or answers, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is the agency that God uses to direct our paths through Scripture pointing what He wants to communicate to us. We must never seek advice or wisdom anywhere else besides God and Scripture.

Praying and receiving prayers, allows us to have peace in our lives. Peace subdues worry and becomes joy. When we pray, we are praying directly to the Sar Shalom, Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:67). When our lives become to hectic, there tends to be a propensity for us to keep our issues bottled up inside ourselves and not turn them over to the Lord in prayer. Our outlet is prayer and we need to utilize this gift we have been given. Praying and surrendering all to the Lord relieves us of our burdens. Peace comes from righteousness and righteousness comes from living in accordance to the Spirit. Remembering to rejoice in the Lord, always for the peace we enjoy now as His children and the peace to come.[6]

When we receive prayers from others, there is peace in knowing that we have others interceding for us in our distress. Knowing that we are not alone when we face adversities is a relief and brings a sense of peace. Although prayers from other believers is great but we should never forget we have a greater One interceding for us with the Father. Jesus is constantly interceding for us in Heaven allowing us to enjoy peace in knowing that we have an advocate with the Father (1 Jn. 2:1). Although the writer John is speaking about the advocate we have when we sin. Knowing that someone is speaking to the Father on our behalf when we sin should bring an amount of joy and peace knowing we will not face judgement. Peace is not only the relief of worry or concern but it is a gift we can enjoy now in the present. Your view of the big picture determines how you view peace. This should not allow you to worry much about the adversities you face.

Being given wisdom you will be led to the Scripture with a hunger to search what God’s will is in your life. This wisdom will then lead to peace. The maturity of the believer elevates causing the believer to become spiritually discerned. A greater understanding of God’s Word is maturity. When one understand God’s Word in a deep and meaningful way, they know what the will of God is and then many issues that brought worry and concern are now viewed and trials that are meant to shape and grow them in their spiritual walk with the Lord. Peace is knowledge. As we grow we become more peaceful in our lives as we mature. A desire for the greater understanding of Scripture is a necessity for peace and wisdom. One cannot find either without studying Scripture.

Prayer in Ministry

Prayer has been labeled as a ministry in many Christian organizations. And rightly so, it is a ministry but you do not have to be “in” ministry to pray. As believers and church attendees, the ministry of prayer is all our responsibility. Meeting in a corporate setting and in prayer groups, we can be effective in bringing hope and peace for the ones we pray for.

Corporate prayer with the church body in a group setting is an effective way to pray for the many experiencing adversities in their life. This ministry involves a personal duty partnered with fellow believers to pray for others. Our church family is part of the Church of Christ, His bride. We are all under the same lordship of Jesus Christ and joined by the Holy Spirit. We are all supposed to be as loving as our biological families are and maybe even more. The second great commandment is that we love one another (Jn. 13:34). We have been given an example of perfect love through our Lord Jesus Christ. He said we are to love one another as He loved us (Jn.15:12). Christ laid His life down for us as an expression of love. If Christ describes His love to us as being a sacrifice, we should be compelled to pray for one another to say the least.

Family prayer should be the most important time of the day for the family unit. Praying together allows each member to personally make requests directly to God while allowing other family members to hear of the things that are in the hearts of the other family members. This method allows the other family members to pray at other times of the day to make personal intercessions on behalf of the other family members. Besides making supplications, family prayer can also ring praises to the Lord for all His goodness. The family’s love for the Lord will continually grow if they are all keeping a high regard for the Lord and a realistic view of their dependence on Him. Prayer time in the household is an instrument that also bonds the family and strengthens. Having been given the wisdom we prayed for, proper discernment and maturity grows within the family unit. Prayer is the direct line to God that brings a family closer in love as Christ loves.

Prayer on a personal level still has the same weight of importance as the church leader’s prayer or the corporate prayer among members in the church. Personal prayer is the expression of love where we intercede in supplications for those we know need our prayers and for the lost that desperately need the Lord. Being part of prayer list at your church is ideal to keep in tune with those who are making prayer requests. Many who know that others are praying for them will rejoice in the Lord. The act of prayer, being personal, family or corporate, brings God glory. Glory in the sense that His command of loving one another is being fulfilled. Even loving your neighbor is being practiced as we pray for the lost showing our obedience to God.

Prayer, by those in ministerial position, is often looked upon as coming from a higher source or a closer position to God. The minister, pastor or leader must be a man of prayer. His position requires so much of him that there must be complete dependence on God for his day to day function. As a servant of God, he must display a great love for his people and a deep burden for the lost. God has given the pastor the opportunity to be the under shepherd or overseer to His flock (Acts 20:28). The great responsibility falls upon the pastor to protect and serve the flock.  As the pastor is aware of this responsibility, he must be a man of prayer. After all, the greatest example to a pastor regarding the care of the flock was Jesus Christ. Jesus was constantly praying to the Father.

Intercessory prayers are made by the pastor on the behalf of the flock God has given him. The pastor is aware of the condition of his flock. He knows each one’s needs. He must be the intercessor in their lives pleading on their behalf to the Lord as any good shepherd does. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, prayed for the children of God relentlessly. He prayed on the behalf of the believers directly to the Father (Jn. 17). Jesus is the only mediator and intercedes to God for all the saved for all time (Heb. 7:25). Jesus is the model for every pastor to follow. His ministry is a ministry of love. Love for the believers that is not hindered by any selfishness but a self-sacrificing love. The pastor must be willing to lay his life down for the sheep (Jn. 10:11).

The pastor must be the model of deep prayer. His prayer life must be exemplary without any doubts, the most prayerful person on the property. His prayer life must reflect love for others and the lost but it must have a reverence about it. Knowledge and wisdom stemming from fear in the Lord, must be the chains that bind him to adhere to clear, meaningful and intimate communion with God. His prayer must be heartfelt and the heart must be the place of origin for his prayers to God.[7] The pastor should understand the full responsibility weighing heavily upon his shoulders that he should shutter at the thought of being able to handle ministry, the flock and the Word of God on his own abilities. He should be on his knees constantly in prayers for strength and wisdom. It is impossible for the under shepherd to faithfully oversee the sheep without prayer.

How Should We Pray?

John Calvin said we “must have the disposition of a beggar”. We must pray penitently in accord to God’s will.[8] As we remember, when we pray we should be like little children coming to our Father and expressing our needs and love for Him. It is a form of divine communication. The Bible has given us a model that we use to structure our heartfelt desires and communicate them to Him. The “Lord’s Prayer” has been the model and even a prayer itself but many do not know that this prayer is for our use. The fact that within the prayer, it mentions that we should ask forgiveness for our trespasses, it does not make sense that Jesus would have to ask for forgiveness since He was sinless. But is it a great way for us to outline our prayers to God. We should always begin by giving honor and praise to God for all He has done for us. The beginning of the Lord’s Prayer starts by saying, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hollowed by thy name,”. This is giving praise and honor to God in His majesty and kingdom of Heaven as Ruler. We must continue to glorify Him as an introduction to whom we are praising and kneeling before.

“Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, addresses His kingdom in the sense of the magnitude of it. Not just heavenly place but the earth as well. “Thy will be done” is the point where the person praying understands that everything we pray for must be in tune with God’s will. Acknowledging that He is in charge not us and our prayers will not stand a chance of being heard or being answered unless we are fully submitted to His will. Jesus was the perfect model following the Father’s will. The plan of redemption called for the death of Jesus and He knew the Father’s will and did not do His own will but the will of the father. Before the arrest of Jesus, He was in the Garden of Gethsemane and proclaimed “not my will but yours be done” (Matt. 22:42). This act of obedience and submission is how we should model our own lives in submission to God’s will.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” We go from exaltation to God to asking what we lack on a daily basis. Not that literally we need to ask God for every meal to be given to us but we do need to acknowledge to Him our needs. This solely shows God that we are dependent on Him for everything. We have submitted ourselves to Him knowing we cannot even supply our own daily necessities unless they come from Him. We then pray for our needs to be met in a submissive way asking according to His will.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This is regarding repentance of sins. We are to repent of our sins directly to God. Not that we may lose salvation but to acknowledge that we have sinned against His Law. Repentance is ongoing until we reach glorification in Heaven. This requires introspection in our lives daily to come to this repentance. The forgiveness of sins we show others reflects the forgiveness we have received through Jesus Christ. It is also a display of love as we are commanded to love one another.

“Do not lead us into temptation but delivery us from evil.” We plead with God to continue to protect us and not allow us to fall for temptation and enter sin. We are weak and vulnerable to sin and we need the strength that is not in us but in God alone to keep us from falling. We must ask in prayer for the what we desperately seek for, His protection and His power.

“For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory.” Finish up every prayer with a doxological theme. God deserves every praise and glory for our lives. The grace and mercy shown to us by God deserves our deepest heart felt thoughts and words to ultimately bring Him every ounce of honor He is worthy of.

The order of prayer should be as follows:

We praise God for all He is and provides for us

We ask for our needs to be met

We submit to His will

We confess and repent from our sins

We close in doxology

The importance of prayer cannot be stressed enough. As believers, cannot survive without prayer. It is our line of communication to God, it is our “life line”. Through prayer, we receive all we need from God. Our eyes begin to open as we are guided to His Word and fill our minds with the wisdom that is found in Scripture. Growth, peace, joy, discernment and maturity are fruits of a great prayer life. Many around the prayerful believer are benefited. Not only the fellow believers but also the lost who have become burdens on their hearts who desire them to be saved by the same grace and forgiveness that has been shown to all believers.

We can only hope that as we mature, so does our prayer. There is not perfect way to pray but we must develop a deeper and more intimate line of communication with God. Our submission and obedience to God’s will is the key to answered prayer. God sees our hearts and knows what is in them. Our expressions should be truthful full of joy no matter what the current season we are in. We will always have the peace in our hearts knowing that God speaks to us through His Word and we have the gift and privilege to speak to Him through prayer.

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Andreasen, M. L. Prayer. Brushton, N.Y: TEACH Services, Inc., 2003.

 

Beeke, Joel R., and Brian G. Najapfour. Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer. Grand Rapids, Mich: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011.

 

Calvin, John. Suffering: Understanding the Love of God. Darlington, England; Webster, N.Y.: Evangelical Press, 2005.

 

Henderson, Daniel, and Nancy Wolgemuth. The Prayer God Loves to Answer: Accessing Christ’s Wisdom for Your Greatest Needs. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

 

Keller, Timothy. Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. Penguin Books, 2016.

 

Mitchell, Isaac F. II. The Prayer Ministry of The Church. Place of publication not identified: Xlibris, 2012.

 

Sproul, R. C. The R.C. Sproul Collection Volume 1: The Holiness of God / Chosen by God. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2017.

 

Sproul, R. C., Alistair Begg, Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, Sinclair B. Ferguson, Michael J. Kruger, R. Albert Mohler Jr, et al. The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives. Edited by John MacArthur. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016.

 

 

[1] Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Penguin Books, 2016). Electronic no page #

[2] Joel R. Beeke and Brian G. Najapfour, Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer (Grand Rapids, Mich: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011). P239

[3] M. L. Andreasen, Prayer (Brushton, N.Y: TEACH Services, Inc., 2003). P. 102

[4] R. C. Sproul, The R.C. Sproul Collection Volume 1: The Holiness of God / Chosen by God (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2017). Electronic Copy

 

[5] Daniel Henderson and Nancy Wolgemuth, The Prayer God Loves to Answer: Accessing Christ’s Wisdom for Your Greatest Needs (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2016). Electronic Copy

[6] Isaac F. II Mitchell, The Prayer Ministry of The Church (Place of publication not identified: Xlibris, 2012). P. 57

[7] Beeke and Najapfour, Taking Hold of God. P. 13

[8] Ibid. P. 34

The Bookshelf

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Hope all is well as this new year begins.  I have added an Bookshelf tab to my blog.  Please feel free to click on it and browse through some of the books I have added.  Eventually I will have my whole library listed and those reference books I am using for my research at Seminary.  I trust these books will be of assistance to you as you grow in knowledge of the Lord.  If there are some books that are over the edge, I will note that, since some research is done looking at some of the false doctrines that are out there.  Sad to say, there are probably writings on false doctrine than correct.

 

Please have a look at the Bookshelf.  Small now but as I have time I will start including all my library.  Enjoy and have a Blessed 2017!

 

In Christ <><

What is Truth?

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In today’s society we are experiencing the influence of postmodern views in all areas of life.  Postmodernism has thrusted its own ideology in current institutions such as schools and has effected the church today to the degree that many have fallen for their definitions in order to follow the secular view.  Search for the truth has become a never-ending task since the current postmodern view on truth.  This truth, as defined by culture today, impacts biblical truths in Scripture and its understanding and how theology is to be done from a pastoral position.  The current postmodern view has developed its own definition of truth and that definition is impacting the Evangelical church and the pastoral ministry.

Defining truth has been a daunting task since the beginning.  In the Garden of Eden, the serpent asked Eve “did God really say?” (Gen. 3:1)  This caused her to stumble on the truth of the statement that he made.  Did the serpent ask her a truthful question?  He just twisted something in a way she did not come to the proper conclusion before falling.  Move ahead into the New Testament, we can see where Pilate, when he was interrogating Christ, made the statement “what is truth” with a hint of sarcasm (John. 18:38).  Pilate’s statement sounds like what a postmodern would say today concerning truth.  The desperation that Pilate had is shared by postmodernist where their view on truth has no absolutes.  Without God there cannot be absolute truth.[1]

In, today’s culture truth is being twisted to fit their view that all truth is relative.  This view of relativity in truth holds to the fact that there is no universal standard for right and wrong.  This view also considers that truth is unknowable and unobtainable but limited to what each individual thinks.  There is no method or measurement that the culture can use for the absolute truth and have devised their method of relativity of the truth.  In Evangelical Christianity, the absolute truth is found in God’s inerrant Word.  That is the standard in which we base truth.

Postmodernism is a movement of belief that each person’s view on truth is deduced by their own personal experiences.  Each person has their “own” truth and for the sake of tolerance, we should never question them but just accept their views.  The all-inclusive and all tolerant view is postmodernism at its premier character.  The postmodern person rejects an absolute truth view where the Christian holds of an exact opposite view where we believe in an absolute truth given to us by God.  The postmodern does not accept a biblical view holding to their own meanings of Scripture with their own personal interpretations and each personal interpretation is correct in their own mind.  With a distorted hermeneutic of Scripture, it is impossible to hold that Scripture is the inerrant word of God.  So, if each postmodern holds their own individual truth of Scripture, then how many different views exist today within the religious circles?

In the current postmodern culture, Christians are being pulled in various directions due to the vast amount of “personal” views of the truth of Scripture.  Having a postmodern view of Scripture has developed in the development of many heretical church movements that call their views as truth and not using the truth of Scripture to guide their congregants.  They have pulled the truth away from the center of their ministry and have polluted the minds of the church goers into believing a different truth away from what God has written in His Word.  Tolerance is the primary jab at the Christian way of life where tolerance tells the Christian to compromise the truth of Scripture and not follow what God has mandated for us in His Word.  Many use Ephesians 4:1-3 in defense that the church must be tolerant and all-inclusive.  Again, a wrong hermeneutic allows for this misinterpretation of Scripture to take place.  Paul was explaining that Christians have to have a quality of humility.  1 Peter 4:8 also gives us a picture of how we are to love in a way of being stretched out or stained putting other spiritual good before their own.  The argument is simple to defend that as a Christian believer, they must repent from their sins.  Of the church allows unrepentant sinners to attend and become members of the church then the church is not God’s church but man’s church.

An excellent example of a postmodern effect on church today is the Emergent church.  The Emergent church has followed in the footsteps of the postmodern in their desire to multiply numbers and church growth.  Pragmatic methods have developed in hopes of reaching the people by using methods to stimulate growth by way of power points, slides, video clips and popular music centering on relationship, community and traditional values.  They have taken away the church service from being God centered into a man centered service.  For the sake of church growth, they have adopted the postmodern mentality of inclusion and tolerance allowing for sinful actions to take place in the arena where God is to be worshipped.  Those involved in sinful lifestyles are allowed to partake in worship and other holy sacraments for the sake of tolerance.   Brian Mcleran has authored books on this subject with an activist role with the intent to welcome postmodern thinking in how we do church.

In Mcleran’s book, The Church on the Other Side, he proposes that postmodernism is the road to take in order to move on from the current stalemate between evangelical and liberal Christians.  In stark contrast to what Mcleran belief system on postmodernism and the church, Kevin Vanhoozer said this about postmodernism and the church,

In the past twenty years or so, postmodernity has become a concept that is as indispensable for understanding contemporary Western thought and culture as modernity has been for understanding the past three hundred years.  For some, postmodernity marks the end of theology; for others, it is a new beginning.

With the Lesbian Bisexual Gay Transsexual (LBGT) movement in full swing and the United States Government ruling of same-sex marriage, many churches are under pressure to allow these people to attend and become members of church.  Clearly, the events of relativity in the postmodern culture today has affected the church and has dismantled the foundations of many denominations.  For the sake of tolerance, Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, churches, just to name a few, have started welcoming these groups into their congregation.  It is not just a putting up with or disagreeing with their lifestyles but tolerance in postmodern view is a new tolerance or social commitment to treat all people and their views as equally right.[2]  Faithful members, sad to say, begin to question their own beliefs since their church caved into the pressures of the culture.  Many find themselves either searching for a new place to worship or caving in themselves under the pressure of being tolerant because they are being told it is the right thing to do, culturally not Biblically.

The seeker friendly or church of easy believism has also shared the postmodern culture view.  They are delivering messages that do not offend or single out sinners or sinful living in order not to cause anyone to feel uncomfortable or convicted.  With the same motivation as the Emergent church of filling the pews, the seeker friendly church has banished any hint of properly preaching God’s Word.  The impression left on the congregants is that everyone should be accepted and we need to overlook their sins and not be judgmental.  Evangelicals would turn their backs on their proper theological view to a pluralistic and worldly view on Christianity accepting the universalistic movement.  The false postmodern views welcomed by the church can distort the salvific process of the Gospel delivering a false Gospel that has no saving power.  Without the proper truthful view on what the thru Gospel requirements are, a false sense of salvation will be ushered into the church.  Postmodern beliefs do not have an absolute authority on the truth but Christians have the Word of God, which is the absolute authority on truth.

The pastor has a tough and long road ahead of him during these days of postmodernism views in the world culture today.  The authority of God in His Word is truth and that is the foundation on which all pastors need to stand.  The Biblical definition of truth, as told by John MacArthur, is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory and being of God.  Basically, the self-expression of God.[3]  The Bible shows throughout the books, chapters and verses that God is truth.  Deuteronomy 32:4 tells of His perfections, John 14:6 Jesus makes the statement that He is the truth……

Truth is hard to deliver to the people God has given the pastor to shepherd.  As an antagonist, truth offends, cuts deep and hurts.  The Word of God has to be delivered in the proper teaching for the protection of the flock.  Hebrews 4:12 gives us a picture of the power of the truth in God’s Word.  The writer says that the word is sharper than any two-edged sword. Scripture is to teach and to convict us of our sins by piercing the heart.  No wonder not many people want to hear what God is telling them.  Today, people want to feel good about themselves even in Christian circles showing what a self-centered and narcissistic culture the West has produced.  Timothy 3:16 gives us the foundation we use to deliver the truth of what God’s Word.  Paul writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit explaining that God’s Word is good for teaching, for rebuking, for correction and for training in righteousness.  The pastor cannot bow down to society and culture but he must stand for the truth of Scripture as an ambassador to the Kingdom.

As penetrating to the souls as Scripture is, the pastor must stay on point to his calling and deliver the truth of God’s Word to His followers.  No matter how unpopular God’s truth is in today’s culture, it must still be delivered in full context.  There is no watering down or dumbing down in order not to offend people in order to win them over.  Pragmatism creeps in ever so slowly and it must be watched very carefully.  There is an overwhelming tendency to be liked by the congregation.  In order to keep them happy and feeling good about themselves, many pastors feel that they have to give the people what they want and dislocate themselves from the very foundation that will keep them safe and honoring God.  Church growth is up to God.  The pastor has to focus on the delivery of the truth of Scripture and by being diligent and faithful to that task.  By doing so, the flock will grow and be protected from any postmodern views that may creep into the church.  Success in ministry comes down to one thing and that is the faithfulness in service of the pastor to the calling to which God has called.[4]

Proper theology is required to lead the church on the proper path that honors God.  Not wavering to every little cultural whim under the sun, the pastor must maintain focus on proper theology.  Proper theology is based on the proper application of the different layers that are comprise truthful theology.  Exegetical Theology, Biblical Theology, Natural Theology, Historical Theology, Polemical Theology and Practical Theology are the foundational bricks that build a proper theology.  Knowing these things is not enough.  The proper delivery of proper theology is only done by expository preaching.  Having a proper theology will assist the pastor in developing an exceptional path to expository preaching.

The primary job for the pastor is to feed and protect his flock.  With expository preaching, the pastor can deliver the absolute truth of Scripture in a systematic and organized manner that will teach God’s people who He is and what His will is.  With a diluted theology and preaching that has no structure, caving into what the culture deems acceptable material for preaching, the truth of God’s revelation in Scripture will not be told properly.  The pastor must keep the pulpit a sanctuary for worship to the Lord.  It is a place where the pastor is the voice of God.  He must always be cognizant of the weightiness and fear involved handling God’s Word.  The Bible is the basis of preaching and it is the power that fills the pulpit.[5]

The truth is known and available to everyone.  God’s Word is truth but since the beginning truth has always been an object that man feels that an absolute cannot be found.  Through the history of man, many philosophical views have been developed in regards to defining the truth.  Today, the postmodern view on truth has the most dangerous implications on the church.  Tolerance and acceptance to everyone’s view on any issue has defiled the integrity of many denominations bringing into the church the world view.  As the challenges meet face to face with pastors holding to proper theology many are falling away from their first love and trying to meet the unbiblical needs of the people who hold postmodern views.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] John F. MacArthur, John 12-21 MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Moody Publishers, 2008). P. 331

[2] D. A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance, Reprint edition (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2013). P. 98

[3] John MacArthur, The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception, First Edition (Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson, 2007). P. 2

[4] R. Kent Hughes and Barbara Hughes, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2008).

[5]John MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel (3rd Edition): When the Church Becomes Like the World, 3 edition (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2010).  P. 196